Avoid Costly Employee Lawsuits
When first launching a fledgling business, no entrepreneur ever plans on being sued, especially by an employee. As such, they often do not take the preventive measures to avoid the organizational and financial consequences that often come with such a lawsuit.
Fortunately, many such lawsuits rarely occur without warning. Rather, they are more likely the final link in a long chain of poor management-employee relations. These practical tips can help your business improve the quality of inter-office relationships and avoid costly litigation.
This is a fundamental tactic but very helpful. Training your managers properly can prepare them to effectively deal with delicate issues, such as discrimination and wrongful termination, which are serious matters that commonly lead to litigation.
Training helps managers spot potential issues, so they can be defused quickly and effectively. Business owners and managers should be aware of potential employment-related red flags, including repeated serious run-ins with argumentative workers.
When incidents do occur, it is wise for managers to document them thoroughly. Having a robust and accurate record of an employee’s work history and their issues can prove an invaluable tool to the company should allegations of managerial misconduct later arise.
Consult an Attorney for Human Resources Counseling
An experienced employment litigation defense lawyer can help business owners and managers develop proper safeguards to avoid potential disputes. When problems do arise, a labor lawyer will work diligently to resolve issues promptly and efficiently. This is critical for preserving not only a company’s financial assets, but its reputation as well.
If you need an experienced and knowledgeable attorney for employee-related matters, contact MacMain Leinhauser by submitting an online inquiry, or calling 484-318-7106. Our office is conveniently located in Malvern, Pennsylvania and we proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Local Employment Laws
Pennsylvania employers may find it hard to keep up with local employment laws as states and municipalities pass legislation to regulate their workplaces. The federal congress has been largely deadlocked and unable to sign proposed bills into law, just as the Pennsylvania legislature and governor have not been able to enact a significant new workplace legislation. Local lawmakers have stepped in to fill the gaps. However, due to many factors such as size, the results are different for each city, leaving companies with employees located throughout the state to deal with a multitude of local workplace laws.
Philadelphia is a unique case in Pennsylvania, and a nationwide leader in strengthening workplace regulations. The size makes it a city of the first class and it has the authority to enact broad laws protecting workers. Under the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplace Ordinance, Philadelphia requires employers with 10 or more employees to provide up to one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, or approximately five days a year. It also has a “Ban the Box” ordinance, which prohibits employers from including questions about criminal records on job applications or asking employees at any time about criminal accusations or arrests that did not result in a conviction. Criminal background checks may only be conducted after a conditional offer of employment has been made. The Wage Theft Ordinance enables covered employees and organizations to pursue wage claims through a city wage theft coordinator.
The Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance of 1974 prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on enumerated characteristics. The law has been expanded and amended several times to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as to protect victims of domestic/sexual violence. The ordinance also covers accommodations for pregnancy more stringently than the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Further, it bans employer procurement and use of employee credit information in hiring, firing, promoting, or disciplining decisions. A December 2016 amendment also bans employers from asking prospective employees about their wage history or to use salary history as a basis for determining compensation.
The most recent amendment to the Fair Practices Ordinance gives authority to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations to shut down businesses for a specified period if they are found to have repeated severe violations without any effective attempt at remediation. Pennsylvania’s Home Rule Charter Law restricts the abilities of the state’s smaller municipalities to enact workplace regulations. However, many cities and municipalities, including Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, Reading, Scranton, and others have enacted ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Several also have Ban the Box ordinances that apply only to applications for municipal jobs, but do not affect private employers.
In August 2015, Pittsburgh enacted the Paid Sick Days Act, which has since come under fire. It was first struck down by the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas, and is now a matter before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The case is still pending and will set a legal precedent for other municipalities in the state. Local employment regulations have provoked a backlash at the state level, resulting in legislation such as the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, which states that local ordinances may not supersede state law.
MacMain Leinhauser is well versed in the complexities of Pennsylvania employment law and can provide you with highly skilled representation. Call 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
Budgeting for Ergonomics
If you own a business, there are many steps you can take to prevent workplace injuries from occurring. Not only do preventative measures help keep your bottom line low when it comes to Workers’ Compensation insurance premiums, but it also boosts employee morale. One thing many employers may not think much about is budgeting for ergonomic furniture and equipment. Ergonomic equipment helps to reduce the amount or repetitive motion-related injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. It can also help reduce overexertion and bodily reaction injuries
When employees’ capabilities are mismatched with standard work in production processes, this can impact productivity metrics, resulting in even more waste and direct costs than injuries can. By paying attention to both the design and layout of your equipment, as well as the standard work practices of your employees, you can improve morale and lower your costs. Taking a thoughtful approach to utilizing ergonomics can help you ensure a high return on your investment.
An Investment in Employee Safety and Comfort
Every year, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company publishes a Safety Index. In the most recent published results (for 2016-2017), the Index identified the top ten causes of the most disabling workplace injuries in the United States. These injuries cost American employers over $62 billion total. Experts suggest that the actual costs related to these injuries are actually much higher, perhaps up to three times as high.
When budgeting for ergonomics, one should consider the impact on production overall—not just health and safety and human resources cost metrics. For example, if you own a factor with a large assembly line, having a comfortable, ergonomically sound set up can increase employee production. No one works well when they are in pain and physically uncomfortable.
First, consider training your employees who are responsible for ergonomics. This should eventually be all of your employees, or at least most of them. However, when beginning, if needed, start with those who are directly and immediately responsible for process design, operations, and continuous improvement. Also, train all employees to ensure that they understand ergonomics, and to ensure that they are using best work practices. For example, if your employees spend a lot of time typing, you should train them about how to ergonomically place the keyboard, and how to sit to avoid repetitive motion injuries.
Next, budget funds to purchase tools and equipment to properly assess, measure, and improve your work processes. For example, you may want to consider hiring an independent consultant to assess where your ergonomic resources will be best allocated. You may want to have these experts work with some internal personnel who understand your work processes. They can work together as a team to develop and carry out an effective and sustainable ergonomics improvement process.
You should also develop means of tracking improvement, so you can gauge the return you are getting on your investment. Determine which of your employees will be responsible for tracking progress and work with them to come up with a plan.
The data collected by Liberty Mutual suggests that health and safety losses for ergonomics-related issues likely account for about a third of your total EHS losses. Determining how much you will invest in ergonomics should depend on your total EHS losses, and also productivity assessments.
MacMain Leinhauser provides advice and counsel to owners of small and mid-sized businesses. To discuss your business law matter, call 484-318-7106 or contact us online.
Proposed Legislation to Combat Bullying
The national “It’s On Us” campaign was launched in 2014 as a means to help put an end to campus sexual assault by educating, engaging and empowering students and communities. Last year, Pennsylvania launched its statewide campaign, “It’s On US, PA” to address sexual assault in schools and on college campuses. In support of this campaign, a Pennsylvania state representative is proposing legislation that would require schools to take a more active role in the prevention of not only sexual assault and harassment, but also bullying.
The state representative notes the link between bullying and sexual violence and emphasizes the need to address bullying where it begins, which is typically in middle school. Under the proposed legislation, the Department of Education would be tasked with developing uniform guidelines for schools regarding how to handle sexual assault, harassment, sexual harassment, dating violence and bullying. Schools would also be required to allow students to anonymously report instances of such abusive behavior.
Students Face Many Types of Violence
According to the state representative, states have been doing a better job of combating bullying over the last decade. However, teens and young adults still experience high rates of all types of violence, including sexual assault, bullying, harassment, relationship violence and abuse and neglect. In his memo to lawmakers, the state representative reports that such violence unfortunately often goes unreported. In fact, fewer than one in ten students who experience sexual assault report it to officials. He does not advocate for harsher penalties for those who engage in bullying but rather, he aims to help schools identify ways to stop abusive treatment.
The proposed bill is one of many in a package designed to support the governor’s “It’s On Us” campaign. The other bills would require colleges to offer a way to anonymously report sexual violence, grant reporting individuals amnesty from drug or alcohol policy violations, and adopt affirmative consent standards that require parties’ continual vocal expression of willingness to participate in sexual activities. The Department of Education would also have to create an annual report card for schools and colleges regarding sexual assault and harassment.
These are not the only proposed laws regarding bullying – a state senator has proposed legislation intended to make bullying a crime. Contrary to the state representative’s view that increased punishment is not the answer, the state senator believes that subjecting those who engage in bullying to criminal punishment is necessary because bullying behavior does not always fit into the legal definitions of existing criminal offenses such as assault. With staunch support for both sides of the debate, it remains to be seen which of the proposed bills will be passed into law.
Many new laws have recently been implemented to combat abusive behaviors in schools, including 2015 and 2016 legislation making hazing and cyber-bullying illegal. Pennsylvania lawmakers are now proposing additional legislation which would require schools to take certain steps towards stopping and preventing bullying. MacMain Leinhauser provides schools in Chester County, West Chester, Philadelphia, Malvern and throughout Pennsylvania with the knowledgeable counseling they need to ensure their statutory and regulatory compliance. Contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106 to learn more about our services.